Death Penalty: Yes
History of the Death Penalty
Delaware State Capitol. Public domain photo.
The death penalty began in Delaware in 1662 with the state's first hanging. The official method of execution for Delaware was hanging until 1986, when lethal injection became the new official method, with the exception of those already sentenced to death by hanging. The gallows were disassembled in 2003 when there was no longer a chance of an inmate choosing death by hanging. The legislative stance on the death penalty has changed over time, with the state repealing and reinstating the death penalty prior to the federal repeal and reinstatement. The death penalty is currently an option for convicted murders in Delaware but is not heavily pursued.
Billy Bailey was the last inmate to be executed by hanging in Delaware and was the third inmate hung in the United States since 1976. Bailey was convicted in 1980 for the murder of an elderly couple, Gilbert and Clara Lambertson. He was given the choice between death by lethal injection, the new option for death row inmates, or the hanging to which he was originally sentenced. He claimed he did not want to be treated "like a dog put to sleep," so he was hung on January 25, 1996. This was the last time the two-story gallows would be used in Delaware, as they were disassembled in 2003.
Robert Jackson was executed on July 29, 2011 for the murder of Elizabeth Girardi, who was hacked to death with an ax in 1992 when she came home and saw robbers trying to flee her house. Jackson was 18 years old at the time of the murder and spent 18 years on death row. He appealed the use of new anesthetic, pentobarbital, but was unsuccessful in his appeal. This new anestheic is now being widely used due to the national shortage of sodium thiopental. Jackson claimed he was innocent until his execution when he implied that his accomplice in the robbery, Anthony Lachette, was the individual responsible for the death of Girardi. Lachette was released from prison in 1996 after serving his sentence from pleading guilty to conspiracy and burglary.
Milestones in abolition/reinstatement
On April 2, 1958, the death penalty was outlawed when Governor Boggs signed a law that prohibited the sentence in capital cases. This was short-lived since the Delaware Legislature passed a bill, overturning the previous bill, to reinstate the death penalty. The death penalty was reinstated on December 18, 1961, overriding the veto of Governor Carvel.
Other interesting facts
A Senate bill passed in 1994 requires that all executions take place between 12:01 AM and 3:00 AM.
Delaware has granted only one clemency to a death row inmate since the reinstatement of the death penalty. Robert Gattis was granted clemency on January 17, 2012.